By Prairie Star Blogger~ Molly
This late Spring I had the wonderful blessing of attending The MidWest Women’s Herbal Conference in Almond,Wi. The last time I spent days camping and communal living with 100’s of people was Lovefest of the Midwest, where my daughter and I bonded over our mutual Love of Nahko Bear and Medicine for the people. I was also one of the oldest at the Lovefest lol. This was not to be so at the MidWest Women’s Conference. Maiden, Mother and Crone were all represented. It had been over 20 years since I took a roadtrip of this size solo. My partner was nervous, I was nervous. Nourishing nervines were my friend, and yet I still managed to forget half my clothes(the warm ones), my drum and part of my food.
After 8 hours on the road, I pulled in to the Helen Brachman Camp and step out the amazing aromatic smell of pine. I have spent most of my life in the Midwest, the prairie, my ocean, big sky around. Here I was surrounded by white pine trees. I could not see the sky. Instead of feeling discombobulated, I felt protected, embraced by these trees. I quickly released any anxiety or fascination with rattlesnakes and camping. A fear I experience camping in places where rattlesnakes may live. This is thanks to my mother’s horror stories from childhood how rattlesnakes can crawl in the tent and snuggle up for warmth. I have realized as an adult, yes it could happen but I think my mom invented such stories to make sure my siblings and I zipped up the tent. Back to my arrival, I was exhausted and thrilled, I had made it! I stumbled up the steps to the main lodge to check in. I was greeted warmly and asked to make a necklace from a piece of pine cut in a circle unaware this was an Easter egg, a hint as to what I was going to experience, purple cord and one bead for each year of attendance. I wrote very plainly, my name and made the necklace, too tired to care. I would later to discover,much to my dismay for not doing so, many woman decorated theirs with pictures of plants, friends names and years.
I am an avid camper who prefers remote camping to manicured camp grounds,falling asleep under the stars with the night time animal noises lolling me to sleep. Setting up camp took all of 10 minutes at the most, I had a routine usually shared with my partner, set up tent, blow up air mattress, make bed, start the fire … oh wait there was no fire to set, I was not sure if we could because we were camping right night to a soccer field No worries I thought, I can always ask tomorrow. I wanted to just lay down and rest. There is one thing I must say about Wisconsin besides it’s beauty, is the weather. Never have I experienced all seasons in one day. The evening was cool and refreshing, a wonderful detour from the 90° F 90% humidity of Nebraska. I curled up in my Pendleton wool blanket and handmade quilt blanket desperate for sleep, drifting off my last thought… would I hear coyotes at 2 AM like at home I would I hear wolves? I woke to sound of coyotes yipping, many young ones in the pack by the wee yips. I smile for half a sec before I realized the temperature had dropped. My breath fogging out from my blue lips, the temperature close to 40 ° F, wondering if I was up for a 2 hour drive to my Uncle’s in Milwaukee , and why did none of my Wisconsin relatives warned me how cold it can be at can be at the end of May! I weaved deeper into my blankets, pulled the hood up on my coat and drifted off in a fitful sleep. I had not been sleeping long when I heard a scratching at my tent, my eyes slit open, the paw scratching at my tent in the shape of a bear.... I tried to resurrect my voice and move my body but I felt like I was stuck in Amber, my limbs forever frozen in time. I was not afraid , merely irritated for being woke up and did not want bear to take my corn chips. “Bear, Go away. Let me sleep! No you cannot have my chips!” I managed to say. The scratching stopped. Urgent scratching started from small paws, they looked like raccoon. I told raccoon to go away and he could not have my corn chips either. He kept scratching; I whacked the paw shadows on my tent with my pillow. The annoying scratching stopped. I heard the distinct unzipping of my tent, Oh (insert curse word), A albino Raccoon came in and bit me on the wrist. Great now I will have to have rabies shots I thought. I wake with a start, my hands tucked under my armpits for warmth, the tent secure, no albino raccoon, no bite on my wrist, no bear. I had dreamed the entire ordeal! I laugh a little but did not go back to sleep. I lay awake fearing the sound of the zipper, reminding myself that it’s too cold for rattlesnakes and wishing I had not forgot my Passion flower.
Later that day, when other woman began setting up camp, a young woman came up to my friend (who was camping besides me) and said thank you protecting the fairy rings. Fairy rings? What? In my fatigued state the night before, I did not notice 2 large distinct rings where no grass grew only moss. The edge of my tent balanced vicariously on the ring while my friend ‘s tent was partially on it. (She ended sleeping in her car most of the night.)
*To be continued next month for part 2 where you will find out why it is called full circle.